Cat parasite found in Arctic Beluga Whales


According to the scientists the cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii affected the Arctic Beluga whales, which cause blindness in people in the western Arctic.

It is also cited as an example of how the warming of the Arctic is letting the open movement of pathogens.

The parasite often found on cats is likely to be imported into the region by people who brought the animals as pets.

Its discovery by University of British Columbia scientists is especially noteworthy because Inuit people in the area often eat the whale’s meat raw or undercooked.

A health advisory has been issued regarding eating the flesh of Beluga.

Michael Grigg, a molecular parasitologist explains that the cold acts as a firewall of sorts against the stretch of certain pathogens.

“This is now emerging in the Arctic and there’s not much we can do about that. This is the new normal,” said Grigg.

The UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit scientist spoke at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

None of the estimation can accurately unveil the way through which these kitty bacteria made its way into the Beluga population.

They do suppose that as the cat population has amplified, there is more of a probability of catlike fecal matter getting into the ocean water.

“The transmissible stage of this parasite is an egg-like structure,” said Dr Grigg.

Toxoplasma gondii is omnipresent at lower latitudes, and is carried by many without any ill effects. It is a potential threat for pregnant women and those with weak immune systems.

According to Sue Moore, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, keeping an eye on sea mammals was one of the best ways to monitor changes in the Arctic. She called them “sentinels of change”.

“They reflect the changes that are occurring below them,” Moore said. “They may not be able to tell you every linkage, but if a sea mammal stops eating one thing and starts eating another that tell me there has been a big shift.”